Michael KennedySt. Ambrose University instructor Michael Kennedy, who has directed more than 75 collegiate theatre productions over the past 40 years, remembers the first - and, to his recollection, only - public complaint lodged against one of his shows, which appeared in the Diocese of Davenport's weekly newspaper The Catholic Messenger.

The Prenzie Players' Much Ado About NothingThe Quad Cities' spring theatre season will be bookended by Shakespeare, with the March 6 opening of Much Ado About Nothing, and Sophocles, with the May 28 debut of Oedipus Rex. But just because these plays are, respectively, more than 400 and 2,400 years old, it probably isn't wise to enter them expecting the expected. This Sophocles, after all, is subtitled The Audacity of Oed, and this Shakespeare is being staged by the Prenzie Players, so in both works, you may as well expect anything to happen; considering our lineup also features titles by Stephen Sondheim, Neil Simon, Euripides, and Mel Brooks, I'm thinking you can say the same for the theatre season as a whole.

Sean Tweedale in Seussical Jr There is officially too much theatre in the area.

Not for me, mind you. Just for this week's issue of the Reader. Although the print edition does feature the article "The Essentials 2008: A Dozen Names to Remember," which hopefully provides a rough idea of the extraordinary wealth of talent found on the local stage scene in 2008, there was still plenty more that needed be said (and plenty more photos that needed be shared).

Essentials Tyson Danner (left) and James Bleecker (standing), with Jackie Madunic and Jason Platt, in Angels in America: Perestroika For the third year in a row, I've composed a list of 12 area-theatre participants who devoted their time, energy, and skills to numerous theatrical organizations and venues during the past year. And once again - happily and inspiringly - it hasn't been necessary to repeat names from one year to the next; local theatre, to the great good fortune of local audiences, never seems to run out of talent.

Andy Koski and Aisha Ragheb in Romeo and Juliet More than a third of the area productions I attended this year - a whopping 35 of them - I saw in the 91-day span from May 17 to August 15. And more than half of those shows - 19 in all - were produced by a combined five theatre organizations: Rock Island's Genesius Guild, Eldridge's Countryside Community Theatre, the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre (CAST), Mt. Carroll's Timber Lake Playhouse, and Davenport's newly established Riverbend Theatre Collective. My experiences with this quintet formed a fascinating theatrical journey, one boasting plenty of highs, occasional lows, randomly bitchy Web-site comments ... .

Tom Walljasper, Sandra D Rivera, Tristan Layne Tapscott, and Erin Dickerson in Are We There Yet Five Extraordinary Ensembles

An actor friend of mine says he always wants to be the worst performer in everything he's in, because if the rest of the cast is doing stronger work than he is, that means the show is in really, really good shape. With that in mind, any actor worth his or her salt would be thrilled to be the worst performer among these five ensembles.

 

Jason Platt and Angela Rathman in Misery There was no lack of spectacular work done in area theatre this year, and the following list is hardly exhaustive. But if you were fortunate, you caught at least a few of these 12 performances in 2008; whether taking on a leading role, a supporting role, or (in one case here) the only role, these gifted artists commanded the stage. And, hopefully, your attention.

 

 

 

Scott Naumann and Michael Callahan in Whacked at da Wedding During a recent interview with Scott Naumann, Kim Eastland, and Jerry Wolking - longtime performers with the Quad Cities' interactive-whodunit organization It's a Mystery - the three routinely crack each other up with memories of overzealous audience participants, randy seniors, and that time when one of their performers, dressed in character, was mistaken for a prostitute at the Rock Island Arsenal Golf Club. ("On a positive note," jokes Naumann, "she made about $750 on the side.")

Reader issue #708 Playwright Tony Kushner's Angels in America begins its run at The Green Room Theatre on October 31, and to hear artistic director Tyson Danner describe it, he and executive director Derek Bertelsen couldn't have chosen a more appropriate production to open on Halloween.

"It's a monster," says Danner.

Into the WoodsInto the Woods (August 10 - 12, 2007): The Green Room's debut production was Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's fairy-tale musical, and many of its cast members had previously worked with director Derek Bertelsen (also the venue's Executive Director) and music director Tyson Danner (the Artistic Director) in the pair's previous, fund-raising performances for the Children's Therapy Center of the Quad Cities: 2005's Ragtime and 2006's The Secret Garden. Both vividly remember opening night.

 

Derek: It smelled like fresh paint.

Tyson: It did. We painted that morning.

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